OK, they’re not really plastic, and you probably shouldn’t eat them, but it’s pretty close. There are biodegradable grocery bags (usually made from corn products) available that could be provided at store checkouts for those who didn’t bring their own bag. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces of toxic plastic. And those Styrofoam™ take out food containers? They do the same thing, but there are biodegradable equivalents for them too. At this time the cost is a few cents more than the Styrofoam™ versions (which is a significant percentage) but the prices will come down as demand increases and more are produced.
According to this August 21, 2008 Seattle Times article the University of Washington has started using biodegradable food containers throughout the campus. And they have tips for others who are thinking about it. And if you can buy in enough bulk, it’s possible to save money by using them.
Inside the Seattle City limits, it will be mandatory soon, but anyone can do it voluntarily. Start asking your favorite stores and restaurants if they have a biodegradable option. See if you can talk them into buying at least a few and providing them to people who ask for them, perhaps even charging a few cents extra if necessary. I’d pay for it, would you? Some restaurants will let you bring your own food container for your Take Out order, see if yours will. And you can buy the bags yourself at some stores in Washington, including biodegradable bags for pet waste. Which means it can be composted if you want. Even if it still ends up in the garbage, at least it will break down properly. We have information about biodegradable bags and food containers on our Links and Resources page, including a link to a list of stores in King County that sell some of the bags. Ask your favorite store if they’d consider getting on that list.